How to Remove Stains from Your Wedding Dress

When cleaning your wedding dress, it is important to know what kind of fabric the dress is made out of and to take the dress details into consideration. Depending on the fabric and embellishments, wedding dresses can be washed in a washer, a dryer, or by hand.

This is my seven-month-old dirty dress:

If your dress is fairly simple and the fabric can take it, you can put your dress in a garment bag or duvet and stick it in your washer on a gentle cycle. My dress had a bit too much beading for this, and there was no way it would fit in my eco-sized washer, so this option wouldn’t work for me.

If you have a sensitive fabric like silk, you can also put your dress in a garment bag and dry clean it at home or do it yourself at a laundromat if it is a large, voluptuous dress.

I learned that beading and crystals can actually melt from the chemicals used by professional dry cleaners, which put me further off from using a dry cleaner here. There was no way I was paying for someone here to wash my dress by hand either!

The easy option for cleaning your wedding dress used by many women is to spot treat only the stains without washing the rest of the dress. My mother used the Dryel® On the Go Stain Pen to treat all the stains on my sister’s wedding dress, but I really had a lot of area to cover for this method of stain removal. Some of the stains were pretty far up the train in the back, and parts of the lace were positively brown.

With a large, heavy Bordeaux taffeta dress including lace, flowers, crystals, and beads, none of the methods above were right for my dress. After researching and buying a few laundry products, here is how I got to work hand washing my wedding dress. (You may be able to find allergenic products or replace my suggestions with the products that you are familiar with. The products below are not a *must*, they are a combination which I found worked out well for me!)

My tools:

1. Spot treatment:

I used the Dryel® On the Go Stain Pen from my mom to see if I could get the dress cleaned without washing it all the way. The stains were too large and too long set in for complete stain removal, but this was a start.

2. Stain treatment:

Since I figured I would be hand washing it, I bought Ariel stain remover as well as some Vanish carpet cleaner, which I’ve heard does wonders on stains. I went around each of the really bad areas and sprayed those bad boys.

Below are stains from the underside of the train that came with the dress when I received it. Mama Funnel Cake couldn’t get them out with Dryel before the wedding, but I would try now.

3. Soak:

After washing my bathtub to decontaminate it, I filled my bathtub with cold water and submerged the bottom of my dress in a mix of Vanish stain powder (kind of like Oxi Clean powder) and gentle liquid detergent (Genie Express-Gel from above). I let the dress hang with the bottom soaking overnight.

4. Scrubbing:

In the morning I went around each of the really bad areas (my dress got pretty dirty in Hawaii and the Swiss Alps), and I used a sock and a toothbrush to gently scrub dirt away. Be extremely careful not to overzealously clean because you could damage the fabric.

I also used this time to pull hairs (bleagh!) out of the hem and tons of little nettles that expanded in the water. I didn’t realize there was so much nature crap in my dress!

5. Bleach:

I took the dress out of the tub after scrubbing and spot-treated the really stubborn stains on the delicate lace with a bleach/water mixture. I very, very gently dabbed the bleach-soaked sock on the lace and let it set for a bit on the balcony.

6. Final soak:

I soaked everything in the tub again in a new Vanish/gentle detergent for a few hours.

7. Spot treatment:

While it was soaking, I went around the bodice and top again with the Dryel and did manage to get the small spots out so that it was perfect again.

8. Repair:

While the dress was hanging, I sewed down loose appliques and beads and secured my corset in the back where it was coming apart a bit. Good as new!

9. Rinse:

I drained the tub and used the shower head to rinse everything. Then I filled up the tub and rinsed everything a few times before draining and using the shower head again. Really get all that detergent out!

10. Dry:

I put it outside on a big drying rack to drip away, and then I hung it up with a towel below it in my house.

When it was dry, it looked great!

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The gown was so much whiter than before the cleaning, and the lace areas that were literally brown before cleaning were sparkling new.

The underside of the train was even cleaner than when I received the dress in the first place!! Only one of the really awful blackish/brown stains was vaguely visible, and it was still on the underside of the dress where no one sees anyway.

Which method did you use for cleaning your wedding dress? Or do you secretly still have a dirty wedding dress in your closet?? 🙂

(Article first published on a private blog, now inactive.)